UNDERSTANDING THE MEDIA INDUSTRY’S STRUCTURE
If you haven’t done so already, it is a requirement to review the oligopic nature of the the U.S. media industry market structure before proceeding. You can’t effect change to a structure you don’t understand.
DISSATISFACTION WITH THE CURRENT INDUSTRY, AND ITS PRODUCTS
Republican trust in mass media is currently near a record low of 21%, while Democrat trust of 76% is at a record high, which pulls the nation-average up to 45% (Trust in Media, Gallup 2018). For specific media types—trust in TV news is 20%, and for newspapers 23% (Trust in Institutions, Gallup 2018). For 40 years now trust in media has shown an inverse correlation with corporate M&A.
But while satisfaction with the current corporate media products is low, the industry’s oligopoly structure—a handful of corporate players in both traditional and tech media controlling most assets—continues to block competition before it can gain momentum (expected behavior in oligopolies). This market “wants” to break, but with all major assets owned by a handful of corporate players, and all exits blocked—demand has no option but to accept supply, and supply is uninterested in adapting to demand. And with state/federal government captive of corporate power, there’s no reason to believe regulation is coming to break up this oligopoly any time soon. That only leaves demand-side industry-disruptive strategies, one of which is outlined below.
For industry disruptive strategies to be effective, ultimately they must reflect themselves in the old guard’s financial statements, which is not happening. It could be that the current strategies are having an effect by springing leaks in the MSM’s ship, and that long-term, the ship will sink. However in the short-term at least, the industry has been able to plug those leaks—because looking at the only metrics they ultimately care about—they have been successful in increasing corporate profits and share prices (profits exploded to $27B in 2016, and share prices have hit new highs).
Let’s ask bigger questions, what does a long-game win actually look like, and how can that be achieved?
WHAT WOULD A MASS MIGRATION TO NEW MEDIA LOOK LIKE?
Think bigger. Ignore irrelevant battles, win entire wars.
American adults spend 11 hours per day consuming media. Of this, 4 hours and 46 minutes is spent watching television, (Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2018). Currently 96% of American households are categorized as “TV households,” and 78% of these subscribe to a pay-TV service. The mean reported monthly spending for these pay-TV services was $107 (Leichtman Research Group). Given the approximately 125 million households this means 125M x 78% x $107 = $10.4 billion addressable market, per month, that can be taken from the paid-TV sub-market alone.
Who are the most dissatisfied customers? Ideologically speaking, 35% of Americans self-identify as conservatives, and 35% as moderates. The media oligopoly is headquartered in CA/NY cities, and clearly has a strong-bias leftward, yet liberals only make up 26% of the population (Ideological Makeup of US, Gallop 2018). What if a significant percentage of these dissatisfied customers migrated their monthly spend to a new media market?
What would that mass-migration look like? Let’s take an example where 35%, or 34 million households migrate (so most of the conservatives, and some moderates), they “cut the cord” which funds corporate conglomerates, and instead rotate that same monthly spend to individuals, i.e. sole proprietor type operations. That’s $3.7 billion in monthly revenue to independent content creators (journalists, social/political commentators, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, financial market professionals, etc), employed by, and speaking directly to, the public. Each operator becomes a mini media mogul of their own, with resources to conduct vast independent content.
Such a capital migration would fund 1000 independent media personalties with $3.7M per month each, or 37,000 such entrepreneurs with $100K per month. Revolutionary industry disruption, a game changer. But even 1% of the market migrating would be $100M per month to this new industry structure.
VISUALIZING THE NEW MEDIA INDUSTRY STRUCTURE
Such a market disruption would make the individual media providers financially captive of the people who fund them, rather than the people captive of a corporate oligopoly. In this way it “democratizes” the industry, disrupting its current oligarchic order.
It also makes the financial and technological platforms the independent media providers use, captive of the public funding base. The crowd funding tech sites (currently Patreon, SubscribeStar, etc) and their VC investors, would get so rich via their ballooning valuations, they would likely not dare disrupt their cash cow.
It’s not like there aren’t problems with this model, e.g. telling your audience what they want to hear, but it does shake up the current corporate oligopic structure—it would create a more balanced bottom-up citizen media vs top-down corporate media. Of course this is all dependent on there being some return to competitive markets, so that the demand-side has switching power. But with this much money citizen-media could build their own platforms, or simply M&A Patreon and replace Jack the CEO, with Eric Weinstein or PewDiePie.
Also unionizing perhaps makes sense, so that “vote with your wallet” actually has collective punching power. You are up against “unionized corporations” (a state-sponsored corporate oligopic structure), and so if you don’t command an army yourselves, you will lose.
THE PITCH TO INVESTORS
In this case the investors are the general public, the stakeholders and donors in a more positive and informative media, something we could call a “free press” with a semi-straight face. Any investor pitch needs to offer actionable moves, and create a sense of urgency with specific time frames.
The popular content providers have access to millions of subscribers globally, and they are experts from all fields thus covering a broad market. And so each content provider could make persuasive pitches to their audience on a plan for mass migration, with an attached timeframe, and a coordinated #WalkAwayMSM type meme. “Bad press” from corporate media on this movement, is only mass exposure to fuel the migration.
There are obvious selling points—1) people are already spending the money, 2) they are actually paying the corporations to infect them with social engineering and disinformation, but 3) they could simply cut the cord, pay less, receive less disinformation, and get more and deeper information on their specific areas of interest.
As someone who cut the cord 20+ years ago, I can say there are huge benefits for your mind, and also some for your wallet. The only question becomes, how to spend our newly found free time and money?
NOTE: this is a brainstorm on one possible strategy. There are dozens of potential strategies and associated tactics, which could be further developed and launched given sufficient interest and funding. The point is to illustrate the importance of industry quant and long-game strategy, over mere internet reactivism and other forms of short-termism.
Media bias in the United States, Corporate Bias. Wikipedia.
Concentration of media ownership, United States. Wikipedia.
(2018). The Total Audience Report. Nielsen.
(2018). Americans' Trust in Mass Media. Gallup Poll.
(2018). Americans' Confidence in U.S. Institutions, 2018. Gallup Poll.
(2018, October 31). 78% of TV Households Subscribe to a Pay-TV Service. Leichtman Research Group.